Staff Directory 6370584

Mark Craig

Reporter/Columnist | Vikings/NFL
Phone: 612-673-7011

Mark Craig has covered college or pro football for 27 of his 31 years as a sports writer at the Canton (Ohio) Repository (1987-99) and Star Tribune. He is in his 24th season of covering the NFL. He is one of the 48 selectors for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.   

A native of Northeast Ohio, Craig covered the Cleveland Browns from 1991 until they left for Baltimore in 1995. When they returned as an expansion team in 1999, Craig left to cover Gophers football for the Star Tribune. He co-authored two books on the Browns and is the author of the Vikings book "100 Things Vikings Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die."
Recent content from Mark Craig
Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow, right, is 3-0 against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs.

Who's up, who's down after NFL Week 13: Burrow, Bengals begin surge

Quarterback Joe Burrow continued his mastery of Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs as the Bengals won their fourth in a row.
Vikings defensive tackle Harrison Phillips celebrated — and Jets quarterback Mike White (5) didn’t — after a Vikings defensive stop during the s

Five Extra Points: White just another backup QB; Vikings lucky (and good)

Jets backup quarterback Mike White threw for 369 yards, but when his team really needed him to make plays — on third downs and in the red zone — he failed miserably.
Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson scored a fourth-quarter touchdown against Jets cornerback D.J. Reed.

Jets slow Jefferson but can't stop him on key TD in Vikings win

The Jets secondary held Vikings star receiver Justin Jefferson to 45 yards, but left Minnesota frustrated by his third-down score in the fourth quarter.
Vikings long snapper Andrew DePaola

Vikings long snapper charts path from college walk-on to bad bartender to ... Pro Bowler?

Andrew De Paola is the leading NFC vote-getter for his position in Pro Bowl fan balloting. He wonders, "How does anyone know who I am?"
This weekend could be an eventful one for the Green Bay Packers and their fans.

Mark Craig's Week 13 NFL picks against the spread. Packers get KO'd?

The could be the weekend when the NFC North title is clinched — and another NFC team passes yet another as the all-time winningest team in NFL history. So much drama!
Vikings cornerback Andrew Booth Jr. (23) sustained a knee injury against the Cowboys, his only start of the season.

Vikings' Booth will miss rest of season; Darrisaw still sidelined

The medical staff decided to fully repair rookie cornerback Andrew Booth Jr.'s knee meniscus injury, shutting him down for the season. Left tackle Christian Darrisaw remains out with a concussion.
Defensive end Nick Bosa talked to reporters after the 49ers beat the Saints on Sunday.

Joint practices gave Vikings an early look at 49ers' potential

Mark Craig's On the NFL: San Francisco has won four in a row and hasn't allowed a point in six quarters, a second-half point in four games and just blanked the Saints 13-0.
Mike White’s two-point conversion Sunday was a highlight of the Jets’ victory over the Bears.

NFL Week 13: Jalen Hurts is up and so is ... Mike White?

The Eagles and Jets quarterbacks are on a roll after strong performances Sunday.
Picking Aaron Rodgers to beat the Eagles doesn’t make sense, but ...

Mark Craig's Week 12 NFL picks against the spread

Too much turkey? Our NFL insider is picking the Packers over the Eagles.
Adam Thielen celebrated his fourth quarter touchdown for the Vikings on Thursday.

Thielen is still so dangerous, as Belichick knows well

Yet another reminder came Thursday night: Adam Thielen is one of the best second options through the air in the NFL.
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick in the second quarter.

Five extra points: He's the G.O.A.T., but Belichick was off his game

Patriots coach Bill Belichick made some odd decisions that contributed to the Patriots losing to the Vikings and to his former third-string quarterback Kevin O'Connell.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick coached Kevin O’Connell when he was merely a quarterback instead of Vikings head coach. The two will face each other T

How will Vikings' O'Connell apply lessons learned from Belichick?

Mark Craig's On the NFL: Vikings coach Kevin O'Connell played for Bill Belichick, who has accumulated so many NFL wins in no small part because of the way his teams methodically bounced back from blowout losses.
Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes is 4-0 when trailing at halftime this season.

Who's up (Mahomes) and who's down (Vikings) after NFL's Week 11

The magic remains for Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, while it was in short supply for the Vikings and the defending champion Rams.
Dallas’ Tony Pollard had a field day against the Vikings, leaving linebacker Jordan Hicks in the dust for a touchdown in the third quarter.

Five extra points: Blunders all over the field in Vikings' loss to Cowboys

A T.J. Hockenson drop, a defense that didn't work hard enough to stop the Dallas offensive line and yet another replay booth debacle capped off an embarrassing loss.
Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell said left tackle Christian Darrisaw, center, sustained a concussion on this play in the second quarter.

Vikings lose left tackle Darrisaw to concussion; won't play Thursday

Coach Kevin O'Connell said Christian Darrisaw will not play Thursday against the Patriots after being injured again on a second-quarter sack.
Linebacker Za’Darius Smith is having a special season after signing with the Vikings in the offseason, when the Packers cut him.

Za'Darius Smith makes case for NFL awards with sacks and a smile

The linebacker, who leads the team in sacks and the league in quarterback pressures entering Sunday's game vs. Dallas, says he's having the best season of his life.
Kirk Cousins and the Vikings offense sputtered in last season’s loss to the Cowboys.

Scars from last year's loss to Cowboys seem to have faded for Cousins, Vikings

The 20-16 loss at the hands of backup QB Cooper Rush brought many of the 2021 Vikings' flaws to the forefront.
The U.S. Bank Stadium crowd will be a big factor in Sunday’s Vikings game against the visiting Cowboys.

Mark Craig's Week 11 NFL picks against the spread

Whose magic will wear off this weekend? Jeff Saturday's? Taylor Heinicke's? Or the Vikings?
Justin Jefferson has to be considered among the NFL’s Most Valuable Player candidates.

Don't tell JJ: A receiver has never been the NFL's Most Valuable Player

On the NFL: This may have been the easiest question that Vikings coach Kevin O'Connell has ever been asked. But somehow he ducked out on answering it and earned good-guy credit at the same time.
Up next for the Vikings: star linebacker Micah Parsons and the Cowboys.

Who's up and who's down after Week 10 in the NFL?

NFL Insider Mark Craig takes a look at how some of the contenders in the NFC fared over the weekend, and how the Vikings factor into all of this.
Vikings receiver Adam Thielen (19) and teammates watch a replay on the Highmark Stadium video screens.

Five extra points: Even an officiating error doesn't stop the Vikings

An NFL official said a Gabe Davis reception on the game-tying drive at the end of regulation should not have counted. But replay officials didn't stop the game.
Kirk Cousins, Jalen Hurts and Geno Smith are all riding win streaks into Week 10. Which ones will continue?

Week 10 NFL picks: Which winning streaks will continue?

Reunions in Buffalo and Green Bay, a game in Germany, an NFC East prime-time showcase and upheaval in Indy highlight this weekend's NFL schedule.
Former Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier found the perfect fit when he was hired as defensive coordinator by the Bills in 2017.

Frazier keeps it simple in building the AFC's best defense

Nine years after being fired as the Vikings head coach, Leslie Frazier has the right players in place as Buffalo's defensive coordinator.
Vikings running back Dalvin Cook scored on a touchdown reception Sunday against Washington, but the running game largely struggled in the game.

Vikings-Bills game will be a reunion for the Cook brothers

Vikings running back Dalvin Cook will play against his brother James, a Bills rookie, for the first time Sunday in Buffalo.
Vikings cornerback Akayleb Evans tripped up Washington running back Brian Robinson Jr. on Sunday.

Rookie cornerbacks make big impact in NFL, and Vikings part of trend

On the NFL: More cornerbacks, including the Minnesota Vikings' Akayleb Evans, were taken in the draft than any other position. Some have played major roles in the first half of the season.
The Bills’ success could depend on the health of quarterback Josh Allen, an early NFL MVP candidate.

Seven surprise teams shake up midseason NFL power rankings

If the playoffs were to begin this week, half the field would be squads that weren't in the postseason last year. And just because you're undefeated doesn't mean you're No. 1.
Vikings linebacker Danielle Hunter recorded two sacks on Sunday.

Five extra points: Commanders outcoached, Hunter's comfort

The Commanders looked like situational novices as the Vikings rallied and there's a cost worth paying for Kirk Cousins to abandon that 'Captain Checkdown' reputation.
Vikings defensive tackle Ross Blacklock, left, is expected to start in the base defense with Dalvin Tomlinson unable to play because of a calf injury.

Hockenson isn't only new Viking excited about worst-to-first move

Ross Blacklock was traded to Minnesota from Houston in late August and is about to play a bigger role on the defensive line.
Vikings defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson sustained a calf injury last Sunday against Arizona.

Vikings' Tomlinson will miss Sunday's game in Washington

The team is taking a cautious approach to the calf injury starting defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson sustained against the Cardinals.
Will Greg Joseph be the difference in the Vikings’ game Sunday in Washington?

Week 9 NFL picks: Vikings prediction something to kick around

Eight of 13 road teams are favored this week, including the 6-1 Vikings in Washington. The Vikings are 3 1/2-point favorites — and what could possibly go wrong?
Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins will play in Washington as the visiting quarterback for the first time on Sunday.

Trip to Washington won't be revenge game for Cousins, O'Connell

Days after Patrick Peterson and Jordan Hicks taunted their former Cardinals team, Kirk Cousins and Kevin O'Connell had only good things to say about their time in Washington.
Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray stayed on the ground after a sack by Vikings edge rusher Za’Darius Smith, right, on Sunday.

Za'Darius Smith ropes NFC Defensive Player of the Week award

Not only did he play well enough against Arizona to win the honor, but Smith paid tribute to Jared Allen's calf-roping sack celebration during the game.
The 49ers are beginning to reap the rewards of trading for running back Christian McCaffrey.

Who's up, who's down after Week 8 in the NFL

The Vikings, currently No. 2 in the NFC, may not want to see San Francisco come playoff time.
Christian McCaffrey is a former All-Pro running back who was traded to San Francisco by Carolina.

Ultra-competitive NFL means added emphasis on trades during season

Mark Craig's On the NFL: Through eight games, 71 games have been decided by one score, and the Vikings and Giants are two teams that have won the close games.
Former Vikings defensive end Jared Allen rode a horse onto U.S. Bank Stadium at halftime when he was inducted into the Ring of Honor.

Five extra points: Allen tributes, a rare TD, missed kicks don't matter

The strangest part of the Vikings' 6-1 start? The kicker-tortured franchise keeps missing kicks, and it doesn't matter. Even stranger than a horse on the field at halftime.
Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) slid under Vikings cornerback Patrick Peterson (7) during the third quarter .

'I've still got it.' Ex-Cardinals back up big talk with bigger plays

Patrick Peterson and Jordan Hicks took advantage of chances to prove their skills all afternoon, and they didn't hold back when it came to letting everyone know about it.
Jared Allen ranks third in Vikings history with 85.5 sacks.

As Vikings honor pass-rushing great Allen, Hunter seeks a breakthrough

Edge rusher Jared Allen, who will join the team's Ring of Honor on Sunday, wonders where he would fit in today's NFL. But he can relate to Danielle Hunter's season of adjustment.
Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray is “different,” Vikings linebacker Brian Asamoah, right, said. “He’s quicker. He’s smaller.”

One Vikings rookie is familiar with being Murray's spy

Linebacker Brian Asamoah has been trying to solve elusive Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray since they were teammates at Oklahoma.
Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields (1) celebrates after his touchdown against the New England Patriots during the first half of an NFL football g

Mark Craig's NFL picks: Vikings are back, tough week for NFC North

Our NFL Insider focuses in on the NFC North as the Minnesota Vikings return from their bye and the rest of the division face challenging foes.
How can you tell if an NFL team is “for real” this season? Maybe Jalen Reagor knows.

Are Vikings for real? Better question: What's 'for real' these days in NFL?

On the NFL: Are the Vikings good enough to win the NFC? It appears so, but check back next week — and the week after that and the week after that — in the fast-changing NFL.
In this photo popular in parts of Minnesota and elsewhere, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was knocked down by Washington defensive end James Smith-

What do Brady, Rodgers, Wilson and Ryan have in common?

All four old QBs are on Mark Craig's "down" list. Read the rest of the downs, the ups, and more in this On The NFL, Week 8.
The Giants are among the season’s biggest surprises behind new coach Brian Daboll, center, with quarterback Daniel Jones, left, and running back Saq

It's not too early in NFL season to debate awards contenders

Need something to debate during the Vikings' bye week? Our NFL insider takes a look at the competition for postseason honors.
Quarterback Marcus Mariota is leading one of the league’s unlikely early-season success stories.

Mark Craig's Week 7 NFL picks against the spread

Our NFL insider is picking four upsets this week, just not the one Vikings fans are most rooting for.
Nate Poole’s touchdown catch kept the Vikings out of the 2003 playoffs after a 6-0 start.

Does 2003 collapse give Vikings fans reason to be afraid of what's ahead?

Any Minnesotan worth their weight in Purple paranoia comes armed with tortured tales of trapdoors lurking just around the bend. So what makes these Vikings different?
Patrick Peterson (7) celebrates after a fumble recovery by Camryn Bynum (24) of the Minnesota Vikings in the fourth quarter Sunday, Oct. 16, 2022, at

Who's up, who's down after Week 6 in the NFL

The 5-1 Vikings are rising in our NFL insider's power rankings, but how high?
Vikings linebacker Za’Darius Smith applied pressure to Dolphins quarterback Teddy Bridgewater on Sunday, something that happened time and again.

Five extra points: Vikings far from polished, Dolphins tackles a disaster

How did the Vikings win 24-16 at Miami with 10 three-and-outs in 15 possessions? By facing the worst offensive tackle tandem they'll see.
Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) has been sidelined by a concussion since Sept. 29.

Dolphins' handling of Tua Tagovailoa's head injury brings ataxia into the NFL conversation

The National Ataxia Foundation, based in the Twin Cities since 1957, jumped in quickly to help raise awareness of the neurological problem.
Vikings outside linebacker D.J. Wonnum is second on the team in sacks with 2 ½.

Vikings' Wonnum questionable with illness; Bridgewater nears return for Miami

Other than Wonnum, the only other Vikings player with an injury designation is running back Alexander Mattison, who is expected to play despite a shoulder injury.
Quarterback Jalen Hurts and the Eagles face a big challenge on Sunday night from the Cowboys defense.

Mark Craig's Week 6 NFL picks against the spread

Teams like the Giants and Jets may be confusing matters in the NFL, but there's no doubt this week offers two marquee matchups: Bills vs. Chiefs and Eagles vs. Cowboys.
Greg Joseph is 1-for-5 with one try blocked on field goals of 50 yards or more this season.

Joseph has coach's support despite Vikings leading NFL in missed kicks

On the NFL: Kevin O'Connell said, "My confidence in Greg will not waver." That's a different take than the relationship between Minnesota Vikings kickers and coaches (and fans) for much of the past 25 or so years.
Running back Saquon Barkley has helped the Giants start 4-1 for the first time since 2009.

A Giant surprise: Who's up, who's down after Week 5 in the NFL

A long-dormant team is making a splash while last season's Super Bowl teams have fizzled out.
Kirk Cousins scored the game-winning touchdown on a fourth-down quarterback sneak.

Cousins needs his legs, in addition to arm, to head off a second-half flop

Kirk Cousins completed his first 17 passes and then used his legs on a couple of key plays to head off what would have been a memorable collapse.
Kevin O’Connell’s Vikings have had the ball first three times this season and scored a touchdown on each of those drives.

Five extra points: Aggressive opening moves, smart closing ones aid win

Beyond the boxscore, here's what stood out from Sunday's Minnesota Vikings victory over the Chicago Bears, including coach Kevin O'Connell going with his gut instead of the data.
Vikings special teams coach Matt Daniels can give a ‘why’ for everything he asks his players to do. His  special teams are off to a great start fo

'Matt the Hat.' How Vikings' Daniels quickly became a special teams coaching star

A first-time special teams coordinator at age 33, Matt Daniels is "a big reason we've found ways to win this year," says Vikings head coach Kevin O'Connell.
Chiefs and running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire (25) beat the Buccaneers on the ground in Week 4.

Running game still important (and winning) thing in pass-heavy NFL

Believe it or not, running the football is still a thing in the NFL. And it seems to be making a bit of a resurgence in importance through the first month of the season.
Geno Smith, left, — yes, that Geno Smith — torched the Lions last week and have a resurgent season so far.

Mark Craig's Week 5 NFL picks against the spread

This seems like an easier week to predict for our NFL Insider. He's getting behind Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes, Cooper Rush and, yes, Geno Smith.
Kicker Greg Joseph is the first Vikings player to receive conference player of the week honors since receiver Justin Jefferson in Week 11 last season.

Kicker Joseph named NFC special teams player of week, call it 'team award'

Kicker Greg Joseph made a career-high five field goals, including the 47-yard game-winner, against the Saints. Plus, Lewis Cine gets birthday wishes, and Christian Darrisaw gets razzed for snoring.
Here’s Kirk Cousins pictured last week in Thundridge, England. doing what he does every week: preparing to start another Vikings game.

Cousins is a stand-up guy — again — in a season of fallen quarterbacks

Love him or not, you have to admire Kirk Cousins' ability to avoid major injury and stay healthy enough to answer the bell week after week.
Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) is attended by medical staff after being sacked by Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Josh Tupou during

Philly, Miami: Who's up, who's down after Week 4 in the NFL

The Eagles are the last remaining unbeaten team, and no matter what their record is, the Dolphins have fallen from great heights because of a horrible coaching decision.
Saints coach Dennis Allen “wasn’t a fan of some of the calls” by the officials in the Vikings’ 28-25 victory in London.

Five extra points: Missed calls, defensive pressure, a fake punt

The curse of late-game blown calls involving defensive backs apparently has lived on to torture the Saints one more time in their loss to the Vikings.
Saints quarterback Andy Dalton is expected to start Sunday against the Vikings.

Vikings-Saints game pits a pair of statistical oddities against each other

The New Orleans offense and the Vikings defense have excelled in the fourth quarter, but have struggled during the rest of games.
Is this the time to get off the Cooper Rush bandwagon?

Mark Craig's Week 4 NFL picks against the spread

Nothing is adding up this season so far. Our NFL insider predicts only nine teams will make it to Week 5 with one or fewer losses.
Vikings running back Dalvin Cook dislocated his left shoulder Sunday against the Lions. He is considered day-to-day.

Playing against Saints? 'Come Sunday, we'll figure it out,' Cook says

Dalvin Cook hurt his shoulder in the second half last Sunday and isn't ready to be specific about whether the injury will let him play in London this Sunday.
The Vikings mascot, Viktor, attended a fan event at a bar in Manchester, England, on Wednesday ahead of the team’s game against the Saints in London

Vikings, Saints have different strategies for managing a game overseas

The Saints left for England on Monday while the Vikings won't arrive until Friday. Can the Vikings use sleep science to trick their body clocks in time for Sunday's game?
Raiders quarterback Derek Carr was sacked by Titans linebacker Rashad Weaver on Sunday in Nashville. Las Vegas is off to an 0-3 start.

Who's up, who's down after Week 3 in the NFL

The NFL's last two unbeaten teams are led by former Alabama quarterbacks.
Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks brought down Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson in the second quarter of Sunday’s game at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Querying Kendricks: Should Vikings pass rush be more aggressive?

Standout linebacker Eric Kendricks admitted the team could take more chances, but there was a reason you didn't see more pressure on Detroit quarterback Jared Goff.
Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks brought down Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson in the second quarter. Kendricks later won a key one-on-one battle with

Vikings linebacker Kendricks still has it. Was there ever any doubt?

On the NFL: Eric Kendricks played the run and pass flawlessly in the fourth quarter to turn the tide against the Lions.
Detroit rookie Aidan Hutchinson was rendered invisible by Vikings Brian O’Neill and Christian Darrisaw on Sunday.

Five extra points: Hutchinson invisible, Goff too visible in comeback victory vs. Lions

The Vikings smothered one Lion, but not the one they really needed to. Meanwhile, Kevin O'Connell won the first coaching challenge of his career.
Running back D’Andre Swift is part of a balanced Lions offense that has scored at least 35 points in each of its first two games.

Lions' road to rejuvenation will likely be paved by their offense

NFL Insider: Detroit is second in scoring, fourth in yards and third in rushing yards under first-year offensive coordinator Ben Johnson.
Tom Brady and the Buccaneers take on Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in one of Sunday’s marquee NFL matchups.

Mark Craig's Week 3 NFL picks against the spread

Week 3 offers up eight road favorites. Our NFL insider picks four of them to win and one big upset in the AFC East.
Vikings running back Dalvin Cook had only six carries for 17 yards against the Philadelphia Eagles o Monday night. Not enough, Vikings coach Kevin O�

O'Connell knows he needs to get Cook more involved in offense

Dalvin Cook has 26 carries for 107 yards and no touchdowns through two games, including only six rushes in the Vikings' loss to Philadelphia during which the star running back was hardly a factor.
After reaching the Super Bowl last season, things are not going well for Joe Burrow, right, and the Bengals.

Who's up, who's down after Week 2 in the NFL

The Bills continue to roll while other possible AFC contenders have fallen flat.
Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts scored on a 26-yard run in the second quarter, one of his two rushing touchdowns in a 24-7 victory over the Vikings on

Five Extra Points: Hurts and Slay have days Jefferson and Cook sought

The Eagles found offensive and defensive catalysts in their quarterback and cornerback. The Vikings' best receiver and running back didn't have as much success.
Eagles rookie nose tackle Jordan Davis was drafted 13th overall, one spot after the Vikings traded down 20 picks in the first round.

Vikings get up-close look at picks that weren't

The Minnesota Vikings are about to face many of the rookies they passed up when they traded down in the draft.
Aaron Rodgers, the two-time reigning league MVP, posted a 67.6 passer rating indoors last week. Justin Fields notched an 85.7 passer rating in a drivi

Rodgers, Fields flipped the script in Week 1. Will roles reverse again in Week 2?

The Packers (0-1) and Bears (1-0) meet at Lambeau Field on Sunday night after upside-down first games that muddled the NFC North.